Lobster for less

Michael Scharf Max Cooper
Michael Scharf Max Cooper

One Friday a month, Micheal Scharf waits in his car in the parking lot of Innsbruck Mall, ready to open his trunk for a select group of customers and show them the goods inside.

He's not selling anything illicit, nor is he pedlling rugs. He's the organizer of The Lobster Club, and he's undercutting the nearby Ingles by about $6 a pound.

Scharf, slightly hunched and wearing self-tinting glasses, brandishes two live lobsters as he speaks. “I guess you'd call me sort of an entrepreneur,” he says. “Multitasker, they call me.”

The Lobster Club is something of a crustacean-focused cooperative. To sign up, just get in touch with Scharf. There are no membership fees. On the last Monday and Tuesday of the month, place orders for pickup on Friday.

Right now, Scharf sells 1 1/4-pounders, although he has access to other weights if demand is high enough, he explains. As The Lobster Club grows, he could sell more products, including lobster tails.

The Lobster Club isn't Scharf's first foray into seafood, although it is the most stripped down. He owned a wholesale seafood business in Pomona, N.Y., in the '70s.

Many years later, when he moved to Asheville to retire, a lobster case in the grocery store brought him back to his time in seafood. “There had to be a market between what they're selling them for and what I could get them for, so I called my people,” he says.

In 2004, he launched Lobstermania, which served hotels and restaurants. But Scharf, being retired, soon realized he wanted out of the fast-paced restaurant game. “I really wanted to deal just with the individuals,” he says. “I'm not looking to make a living from this. I'm just doing it to keep busy.”

Thus, the Lobster Club. In June, Scharf delivered a couple of dozen live American lobsters to his customers for $12 a pound — about $6 or $7 lower than grocery store prices, Xpress confirmed.

The lobsters are captured in the Gulf of Maine and, farther north, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Scharf calls in his order and picks up the catch after it’s trucked south. Customers bring their own coolers and bags to transport the live lobsters from the pickup spot.

As for cooking, Scharf can provide recommendations, but he prefers simplicity. “If you want the true taste of lobster, just steam them,” he says “They're easy to steam.”

A 1 1/14-pound lobster steams for 12 to 13 minutes, he says.

For more information about The Lobster Club, visit thelobsterclubwnc.com or call Scharf at 696-6555.

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